NIU to break ground on new cancer center

By Jack Komperda
Daily Herald Staff
Published6/14/2008 12:11 AM

Northern Illinois University is set to break ground next week on the state's first proton cancer therapy treatment center in West Chicago.

University officials from the DeKalb school will join state and local officials Thursday at the future site of the $159 million facility, to be located at the DuPage National Technology Park.


State health regulators gave NIU the go-ahead in February to pursue construction of the treatment center. Only five such facilities, which use proton beams rather than standard radiation to treat a variety of cancers, exist in the country.

John Lewis, an associate vice president of NIU and the cancer center's project manager, said university officials are finalizing an agreement with Northwestern University's physicians group, the Northwestern Medical Faculty Foundation, to provide clinical services on site.

NIU doesn't have its own medical school.

The school's physics department has begun research trials at two other proton treatment centers in California and Florida, which then will be moved to the Illinois center once it opens in February 2010.

Lewis also said hospital officials should have an agreement in place by the end of the summer to buy medical equipment for the building.

"The company has made assurances it would be able to make the delivery schedule," Lewis said.

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Once those agreements are in place, the university is expected to borrow most of the $159 million in bonds later this year to fund the project.

Both NIU and Central DuPage Hospital in Winfield had been rushing to be the first to get state approval to construct similar treatment centers in the West suburbs.

The Illinois Health Facilities Planning Board rejected the proposal by Central DuPage Hospital last month because it says the center would be located too close to the NIU site.

The Winfield hospital has since filed an appeal to the state's decision.

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